French giants risk bankruptcy
Paris - Ailing French rugby giants Stade Francais face bankruptcy if they don't find several million euros before they appear in front of the financial committee of the National Rugby League (LNR) next Monday, their president Max Guazzini told said on Wednesday.
Stade, who under the flamboyant former radio mogul Guazzini's presidency have emerged from third division anonymity to win five league titles and reach two European Cup finals, had thought their financial woes were over when a virtually unheard of Canadian Foundation FACEM said they would invest 12 million euros in the club.
However, the deal brokered by former Stade and France coach Bernard Laporte fell apart and on Tuesday it was announced that both he and Guazzini were suing FACEM - who are based in a non-descript building in Montreal which on the ground floor boasts a restaurant that trumpets its 'sexy waitresses' - for fraud.
A source close to the investigation said that a Cameroon national had been arrested in Paris on Tuesday over his alleged involvement in the affair.
Guazzini, who has also transformed the image of club rugby in France with his putting on of glitzy showbusiness like pre-match shows, admitted that regardless of what happens with the legal case their immediate problem was to avoid relegation because of their parlous financial position.
Stade have accumulated debts of 5million euros - mainly because of the failure of the advertising company Sportys - though Guazzini says ideally they need 6.6 million euros to be solvent.
"If we don't find the money, then we are finished," said Guazzini.
"We will be relegated to Federale 1 (third division)," commented Guazzini, who added that in such a scenario the club would be obliged to file for bankruptcy.
Guazzini, a qualified lawyer who advised senior Socialist politicians and then made his fortune from NRJ radio station, earlier told radio station France Info it didn't matter who came forward with the money as their situation was so desperate.
"Everyone can come to Stade Franais," said the 63-year-old.
"Either to make a donation or to take majority control of the club.
"The situation today, is that it is a battle to save a magnificent club, a world rugby mark, a very popular club.
"Me, I will leave, I will give way to someone who really wants the job.
"There are people in this country who love sport and rugby and who have enough money to save the club."
Guazzini said that there was some light at the end of the tunnel.
"There are negotiations going on, that is all I can say at this stage."
Laporte, who goes back a long way with Guazzini having been the coach that took them from the third division to their first title in 1998, had looked like he was Stade's knight in shining armour when he popped up as the frontman for FACEM earlier this month.
FACEM, which is a foundation for the improvement of conditions for children round the world, is headed by a young Haitian businessman Job Ariste, who also heads up the two mobile phone companies whose offices are in the same building in Montreal.
It is not a registered charity but a private foundation which is authorised to pursue 'without monetary profit for its members' activities of 'a national character, patriotic, religious, philanthropic, charitable, scientific...or sporting'.
It is allowed to finance sporting ventures but not to make a profit on them, though, unlike charities they don't have to produce tax receipts.